“Hi, this is Bill Cosby. I’d like you to pay close attention to this album because it’s very important. We’re going to talk about amphetamines, cocaine, depressants, barbiturates, opiates, alcohol, tobacco, hallucinogens.”
That was the introduction to Cosby’s 1971 album “Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs,” which won him a Grammy for Best Recording for Children the next year. It was produced during a time when Cosby was making fun of drugs in some of his comedy routines. In 1969, he had joked about the aphrodisiac called Spanish Fly. In 1978, he would kid about cocaine.
But this album wasn’t meant for comedy; it was an anti-drug campaign, benign enough at the time but now yet another example of the contrast between the virtuous role model he played in public and the life he appears to have been leading behind closed doors. Over the past year, numerous women have accused Cosby of sexual assault in cases that date back to the mid-1960s — the era when Cosby was gaining fame for his family-friendly fun.
Cosby’s case hit a new wave of controversy this month when the Associated Press and then the New York Times obtained court documents in which Cosby admitted to keeping Quaaludes on hand with the intent of giving them to women he wanted to have sex with, though he said it wasn’t without their knowledge. Since then, Cosby’s drug PSAs have resurfaced online.
“Do you think it’s fun to have to take a pill or to sniff something or to snort something or to shoot something in your arm to make yourself feel as a lot of people think ‘better?'” Cosby asked at the beginning of his 1971 album.
“No!” a chorus of kids replied.
The album had five tracks with one central message: “Say no to pills.”
“Okay, now let’s talk about pills,” a young Cosby said, presumably talking to children with some groovy 1970s tune playing in the background. “People take pills to get high. Now some pills are called downers. So, if we take a downer, it kind of makes us feel sleepy. And we think we feel good.”
Then the record slowed down.
“There, you’re on a downer now,” he said in a deep voice. “That’s not much fun, is it? You thought you were going to get high but you’re just very drowsy and sleepy and bumping into people. You don’t want to bump into people.
“So why not take an upper?”
Then the record sped up.
“Oh yes, an upper will make you high,” he said in a high-pitched tone. “It will make you wake up and you will think you’re faster than you ever were. Oh my goodness, this isn’t any fun either, is it?”
At that time, Cosby — who later became “The Cosby Show” dad who lectured his TV son, Theo, about the dangers of drugs — was working the subject into his stand-up comedy. In a 1969 comedy album called “It’s True! It’s True!” Cosby talked about his mission as a teen to score Spanish Fly after learning that slipping it into the drink of a girl called “Crazy Mary” might make her easy.
“From then on, anytime you see a girl, ‘Wish I had some Spanish fly,’” he said. “Go to a party, see five girls standing alone. Boy, if I had a whole jug of Spanish fly I’d light that corner up over there. Haaa ha ha.”
More than 20 years later, he joked about it with Larry King.
More recently, Cosby has been under fire over sexual assault allegations.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press obtained court records from a 2005 sexual assault lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand, a former basketball operations manager at Temple University, where he was on the board of trustees. She claimed he assaulted her in 2004. Last week, the New York Times got the complete deposition in which Cosby admitted he once used his fame and drugs to help seduce women. He said he once kept several prescriptions of the 1970s party drug better known as Quaaludes to give to women in the same way “a person would say ‘have a drink.'”
In response, Cosby’s attorneys released a statement arguing that even though Cosby admitted he used Quaaludes that does not mean he drugged and sexually assaulted women.
“The media immediately pounced, inaccurately labeling the released testimony as defendant’s ‘confession’ of ‘drugging’ women and assaulting them,” his lawyers Patrick O’Connor and George Gowen wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. “Reading the media accounts, one would conclude that defendant has admitted to rape. And yet defendant admitted to nothing more than being one of the many people who introduced Quaaludes into their consensual sex life in the 1970s.”
“There are countless tales of celebrities, music stars, and wealthy socialites in the 1970s willingly using Quaaludes for recreational purposes and during consensual sex,” they added.
Indeed, Quaaludes — a sedative — was legal in the U.S. at that time.
Here’s an actual anti-drug public service announcement from Cobsy: